China Tests Radio Tracking For Moon Probe

Chinais readying a set of radio telescopes to monitor that country's first lunarorbiter--Chang'e 1--according to Li Yan, director of the Chinese Academy ofSciences (CAS) Yunnan Observatory.

Amonitoring project has successfully demonstrated that China is capable of detecting and tracking its future Moon-orbiting satellites. Spread outin distance from each other, the radio dishes are set up in Beijing, Shanghai, the southwestern Yunnan Province, and the northwestern Xinjiang Uygur AutonomousRegion.

Ina June 20 report from the Xinhua news agency in China, the testing was done in an agreement between CAS and the European Space Agency (ESA)that is now operating its SMART-1 spacecraft as it circles the Moon.

Accordingto Xinhua, Wang Min, chief scientist in charge of the telescope testproject, said the test lasted five days in accordance with an agreement betweenCAS and ESA. Every four hours, the satellite circled the Moon and thetelescopes were able to detect half the orbit, or about two hours.

TheChang'e 1 lunar orbiter is to be lofted toward the Moon on a Chinese Long Marchbooster next year.

China's Moon probe isbased upon that country's Dongfanghong III satellite platform and othertechnology. Chang'e 1 is on track to be tested at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in SouthwestChina's Sichuan Province in December. If the probe's readiness is green-lighted itwill be launched in April 2007.

Multi-phase program

Chang'e1 will be outfitted with a stereo camera system to chart the lunar surface, analtimeter to measure the distance between the spacecraft and the lunar surface,a gamma/X-ray spectrometer to study the overall composition and radioactivecomponents of the Moon, a microwave radiometer to map the thickness of thelunar regolith, and a system of space environment monitors to collect data onthe solar wind and near-lunar region.

Earlierthis year, Luo Ge, deputy director of the China National Space Administration (CNSA)visited the United States, outlining his nation's Moon agenda. Chang'e 1 is thefirst step in a multi-phase lunar exploration effort.

Luostated that China also intends to land a rover on the Moon's surface by 2012,followed by a robotic lunar sample return mission in 2017.

Chinesespace officials were reported earlier this month as saying that a human missionto the Moon by China is slated by 2024.

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Leonard David
Space Insider Columnist

Leonard David is an award-winning space journalist who has been reporting on space activities for more than 50 years. Currently writing as's Space Insider Columnist among his other projects, Leonard has authored numerous books on space exploration, Mars missions and more, with his latest being "Moon Rush: The New Space Race" published in 2019 by National Geographic. He also wrote "Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet" released in 2016 by National Geographic. Leonard  has served as a correspondent for SpaceNews, Scientific American and Aerospace America for the AIAA. He has received many awards, including the first Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History in 2015 at the AAS Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium. You can find out Leonard's latest project at his website and on Twitter.